He has several names-- Super Mario, Jump Man, Mario Mario-- but almost everyone, whether they play video games or not, is aware of Nintendo's red-and-blue (ex) plumber mascot. Starting with the arcade cabinet classic Donkey Kong, Mario has become one of the most recognizable faces in pop culture. Perhaps second in recognintion only to Disney’s Mickey Mouse.
Despite his popularity, there are plenty of dark secrets or little-known facts about Mario that Nintendo would probably rather not be made public knowledge. The truth is that despite his bubbly and fun exterior, Mario is a rather awful person. Some of the worst things about Mario are only there if you comically over-analyze. Even taking things at face value, though, Mario is an animal abuser, a terrible brother, and quite possibly a philanderer.
All the factoids are on this list doesn’t take much more than a simple Google search to find. Still, they’re not exactly bits of information that Nintendo wants to include in the official lore of Mario (and yes, Mario does have official pieces of lore).
None of the truths on this list take away from the merits of any of his games or negatively effects how fun they're to play. They should, however, make you look at the folksy chubby hero in a different light, even if it’s all in good fun.
Here are the 15 Things About Mario That Nintendo Wants To Bury.
15 Mario Bullied Wario as a Child
Wario seems like the quintessential evil twin character type. He’s looks the reverse Mario, all the way down to his name and his looks. Everything about Wario’s design is meant to be the inverse of Mario and it'd be easy to think things aren’t that much deeper, except that’s woefully wrong. At least, it’s wrong according to one comic in a Nintendo Power magazine.
The comic, which explored Mario and Wario’s relationship, makes the former into a humongous jerk. The comic posits a world where Mario and Wario have been friends since childhood and Mario was a bully who made young Wario’s life a living hell.
When an older (and crying) Wario finally confronts Mario about this behavior, Mario tells his rival to “stop being a wimp.” Then Mario proceeds to “have fun” like the “old days” and immediately shoots Wario with a pellet gun. Mario might be the face of Nintendo, but he really is a garbage person.
14 The Original Mario Looked A Lot Different
Mario, as he exists in his modern form, isn’t exactly a sex symbol. He’s pudgy little man with comically large mustache. However, Mario is still cartoon-y cute in that perfect Nintendo type of way. According to the original art surrounding his first appearances, Mario was intended to be much creepier.
The art accompanying the release of Donkey Kong had Mario portrayed as a balding, oddly portioned man. Mario’s face is twisted into a very uncomfortable grimace and he doesn’t look all that dissimilar in resemblance to WWII propaganda depictions of Mussolini. A fact that may very well be intentional since Mario has always come across as an Italian stereotype.
Thankfully with subsequent console generations, Mario was made to look more cuddly and welcoming. Yet if the early depictions of the character had made to an HD era, Mario very well might be the stuff of nightmares.
13 The Years of Luigi Abuse
It’s a long-running joke in the Mario fandom that Luigi is the much less loved brother of pair. It’s a joke, though, that’s based in a lot reality. Mario is rarely, if ever, shown to be a caring sibling to his younger brother.
Luigi is constantly the butt of the jokes in the Mario & Luigi game series and Mario shows barely any gratitude when Luigi does end up saving him on occasion. The worst moment, and the one most buried by Nintendo, comes during Luigi’s celebration cut scene in the Nintendo GameCube game, Mario Power Tennis.
If Luigi wins a tournament in the game, he’s show to be celebrating with a trophy, like every other playable character. Then out of nowhere, Mario appears. In a completely passive aggressive fashion, Mario smacks Luigi on the back (hard) and then proceeds to dig his foot into Luigi’s own, showing his great displeasure.
It’s probably intended as joke but it makes Mario look like egomaniacal monster who can’t stand any semblance of success from Luigi.
12 Donkey Kong Was Mario's Abused Circus Ape
Nearly everyone knows about the original arcade game that started Mario’s video game career (although he was still known as Jump Man back then). Donkey Kong helped Nintendo become a juggernaut. Very few are aware to the backstory to Donkey Kong and it doesn't make Mario look good, at all.
DK comes off as the stereotypical evil, knuckle-dragging ape in the original game. Yet according to the handheld Game & Watch title, Donkey Kong Circus, which takes place before Donkey Kong, the ape is an abused circus animal who was formerly under the control of Mario. Donkey Kong Circus sees DK perform a number of humiliating tricks and if he fails, Mario will either laugh or whip him.
Donkey Kong stealing Mario’s girlfriend isn’t an act of casual or senseless cruelty. It’s the vengeful actions of a former humiliated animal slave fighting back.
11 Mario Was Originally a Carpenter
The internet went absolutely insane when Nintendo released information that Mario was "a former plumber." Even though Mario hasn’t done any plumbing for several decades, the fact that he quit his job was shocking to some.
Yet, a plumber isn’t even Mario’s original career. Around the Donkey Kong and Jump Man days, Mario was described as a carpenter. This is why one of the power-ups in the original game is a hammer and not, let’s say, a plunger.
It might have seemed like betrayal from Nintendo when they revealed that the most famous plumber ever, was no longer a plumber. Yet the company has really buried Mario’s original job for years.
Mario has been climbing various career ladders and abandoning blue-collar work for decades. Mario is a former plumber but he’s also a former carpenter and doctor, kart racer, tennis player, painter, actor, etc.
10 Princess Peach Isn't His First Girlfriend
It’s a little-known fact to anyone but the most hardcore gamers that Mario's first damsel in distress in Donkey Kong-- despite all appearances-- isn't actually Princess Peach (nee Toadstool). Mario and Peach are one of the most iconic (but chaste) love affairs in pop culture, but their love is not eternal. Mario’s first girlfriend was, in fact, named Pauline and she had no royalty of any kind.
Pauline was a huge part of the first game but almost immediately afterwards she was completely wiped from the historical record. Leaving just Peach as Mario’s "one true love."
Recently Pauline has made a reappearance. She’s a relatively major supporting character in Super Mario Odyssey as the mayor of the delightfully named New Donk City. Yet there is any hint of her past romance with Mario.
Either the break-up was so bad neither can speak of it or Nintendo just doesn’t want to muddy the simple Mario "saves his beloved princess" formula with an ex-girlfriend -- who manages to rule a kingdom and not get kidnapped.
9 The Original Game Was Designed for a Popeye License
Nintendo might have a cast of incredibly iconic characters nowadays but they first broke into the video game scene by developing for established licenses. There are plenty of early Nintendo games on the Game & Watch systems that have Mickey Mouse as the star, but it’s rare that those mentioned.
Mario, meanwhile, was almost never Mario. The game that became Donkey Kong was originally developed as licensed game about the cartoon character Popeye. Mario didn’t just start life as Jump Man, but he was almost never borne at all, created as a Popeye clone.
Just as the game was about to be finished, the license fell through and Nintendo came up with their own character to replace Popeye. Yet there are still some remnants in the final product. Pauline doesn’t look radically different from Popeye’s Olive Oil and barrels do feel more in line with a sailor like Popeye, not a carpenter / plumber like Mario.
8 The Princess Daisy Dalliance
The Mario franchise did essentially replace Pauline with Princess Peach. However, this isn’t the only weirdness in Mario’s love life. There’s another Princess in the Mario franchise, known as Princess Daisy. She is, for intents and purposes, Luigi’s lady love. However, in her first game appearance, Daisy ends up running away with Mario.
In Daisy’s first game, the Game Boy’s Super Mario Land Daisy fills the Princess Peach role. Mario is on a mission to save her and once that’s accomplished, the two celebrate by riding off into the sunset with the customary heart above their heads.
At best, Mario dated Daisy before Luigi and before Mario met Peach. At worst, Mario betrayed his brother and cheated on Peach. Both explanations are rather messy so it’s not a surprise that Nintendo has ignored this moment (and all other information about Daisy). Until proven otherwise though, feel free to think of Daisy as Mario's secret second royal lover.
7 The Horrible Hotel Mario
The infamous The Legend of Zelda games for the ill-fated console, the Philips CD-i, are the stuff of meme legend. They’re famously terrible games that are a blight on the franchise's otherwise stellar quality control. Zelda isn't the only game series to be infected by the CD-I. Mario also had a dreadfully mediocre adventure on the platform, called Hotel Mario.
Hotel Mario is an exercise in tedium as Mario is searching for Peach through a series of ugly-looking hotels. The objective of the game is to avoid / kill all the enemies on-screen and close every door. It’s precisely as boring as it sounds.
It’s exact opposite of fun and the controls are like all other Phillips CD-i games so in a word, terrible. Hotel Mario is just as laughable an effort at a Nintendo game as the CD-i Zelda entries, but somehow it has escaped the same level of infamy.
6 Mario's Design Is Because of Graphical Limitations
Mario has one of the most instantly recognizable looks in all of pop culture. With the hat, the mustache, and the overalls, it’s not only a super easy Halloween costume, those elements are forever tied to the character. The only reason all those things exist, however, is due to the graphical limitations of the arcade cabinets and the NES.
The mustache and hat were created to give Mario's face a shape. The overalls were to easily covey a sense of movement and the iconic red color was just to make him stand out from the background. There wasn’t much thought put into how Mario looked in all honesty. It was all about just dealing with what was graphically possible at the time.
Along the way Nintendo did get more creative, giving Mario some more distinctive features and rounding him out (literally). Yet the basic elements that have been there from the beginning exist because they were the easiest possible option.
5 He's Named After An Angry Nintendo Landlord
Some of Mario’s more questionable feats become a little bit more understandable when his namesake is revealed. It might seem surprising that a (very) Japanese company decided to make an Italian plumber named Mario their mascot but there is a real-world connection. Mario gets his name from landlord who owned a building in Nintendo’s American branch.
Mario Segale, as the story goes, was an angry and nasty landlord for Nintendo of America. At the time, Nintendo was trying to figure out a more creative name for the character than just regular "Jump Man." They were given inspiration by Segale, who frequently barged into their offices and demanded his money.
Unsurprisingly, Segale isn't that happy with sharing his name with the character, who now greatly outweighs himself in notoriety. Segale bitterly joked in 1993 Seattle Times interview that he’s still waiting on royalty checks.
4 Everything About The Movie
Super Mario Bros. stands as the perfect example of the video game movie gone awry. It’s with good reason too as the John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins starring flick is a cinematic disaster. It’s hated and despised by nearly everyone that was involved in making of it and it only has stuck around in the popular consciousness because of how amusingly bad it is to watch.
Nintendo would rather no one mention Super Mario Bros. ever. The rumor is that the experience of making of the movie was so bad for the company that it has convinced Nintendo to never make a motion picture out of any other their properties.
No matter how cinematic the games get or how ambitious in storytelling they become, gaming will remain the only medium for Mario and pals. That’s how bad the memory of Dennis Hooper playing a human / dinosaur hybrid is for Nintendo.
3 The Yoshi Punching
Hitting the news around the same time as Mario forsaking his plumber duties was the fact that in Super Mario World, Mario spends a large majority of the game punching Yoshi in the head. Yoshi, the beloved dinosaur companion, made his first appearance in Super Mario World serving the function as Mario’s scaly steed.
One of the mechanics of the game sees Yoshi stick out his tongue to eat enemies or hanging fruit. When this happens, Mario makes a motion that can be viewed as pointing but has been confirmed by one of the game’s developers as Mario punching Yoshi in the back of the head. This action is particularly disturbing as Super Mario World’s follow-up game, a prequel, saw a herd of Yoshis raise a baby Mario and Luigi.
It’s no wonder that Nintendo kept Mario’s abuse of his parental figures under wraps until almost 20 years after the game released.
2 Every Broken Block is a Murdered Toad
Toads are really one of the weirdest parts of Mario universe. The more information that comes out about the subjects of the Mushroom Kingdom the stranger they seem. As bizarre as the Toads have become, they started life in a miserable situation. According to the manual for the NES’ Super Mario Bros., the blocks that are scattered throughout the levels aren’t inanimate objects but actually transfigured Toads.
This means that every time Mario breaks a block in the first game, he isn’t just doing it to get the coin inside. He’s completely annihilating a poor innocent little mushroom person. As many jokes can be made about Mario casually killing Bowser’s minions in the games, most of who don’t even directly attack him, the brick breaking is way worse.
Thankfully, since the first game the bricks have just become bricks. Still the Toad transformation remains a disturbing part of the series’ lore.
1 He Tried to Murder Donkey Kong Jr.
The direct sequel to Donkey Kong is Donkey Kong Jr. Rather than controlling Jump Man (or Mario), the sequel has players control Donkey Kong Jr. as he tries to rescue his father from Mario.
In Donkey Kong Jr., Mario is unquestionably the villain, as he does everything possible to trip up the baby ape and he has the Donkey Kong Sr. clearly terrified within his way-too-small cage.
Donkey Kong Jr. is just one long experience of Mario attempting infanticide and if the player gets a game over, Mario succeeds. It’s really horrifying even for the limited graphics of the time and Mario appears to be a complete sociopath.
This might explain, at least partly, why after Super Mario Kart Donkey Kong Jr. disappears entirely from the Mario universe. It’s been established that the modern Donkey Kong is grandson of the original, who is now known as Cranky Kong.
This completely ignores Donkey Kong Jr.’s existence. Or perhaps DK JR is missing because Mario finally finished the little Kong off in between games. Either way, Mario and Donkey Kong Jr.'s killer relationship might just be the darkest of Nintendo's secrets.
Are you aware of any other little-known Mario facts? What secrets about the ex-plumber do you think Nintendo wishes were the most buried? Sound off in the comments!